MERCEDES — Not bad for the first time out.

Luis Barrera had just won second place in his class at the Jr. Simmental event of the 80th Annual Rio Grande Valley Livestock Show.

“I usually bathe her twice a week and I comb her every day,” said Luis, 15, a ninth grader at Veterans Memorial High School.

“I walk her daily and I feed her six scoops of Purina show chow so that she can fill out more,” he said.

Young people from throughout Texas competed in a variety of events yesterday including the Jr. Brahman – Zebu competition, judging of Jr. Simbra, and judging of market hogs. At the Simmental event, young heifers plodded through sawdust, their owners struggling with harnesses and stroking their bellies with show sticks.

Preparing Simmentals for show is no small matter, said Tyler Denny, a McAllen High School senior who’d just won Reserve Champion in the Calf Division of the Simmental Show.

“It’s just working, working, working,” said Tyler, 18. “One of the main things with Simmentals is just working those hairs, making them look nice and pretty, making sure they’re all uniform and go one direction.”

Supporters exploded with applause as the judge announced that 11-year-old Taylor Groce’s Simmental heifer won grand champion.

“You just have to work with them,” said Taylor, a fifth grader from Snook.

“If you don’t work with them for a month you just lose whatever they’ve gained,” she said. “I feed them and catch and wash them and blow them and then feed them.”

This is her third year participating in livestock shows but the first time she’s won grand champion. She has a special preference for the breed.

“I started with Simbrah and I hated the attitude,” she said, adding that Simmentals tend to be a calmer breed.

Luis looked forward to raising more animals for livestock shows. This year’s animal was a little underweight for her age, but she still came out pretty good. He’s shown her at two smaller shows.

“I usually get good remarks from the judges,” he said. “The one bad remark was that she is kind of small.”

The event had special meaning for his grandfather, who is a breeder, said Luis’s mother Celina.

“My son is his oldest grandson so he’s been waiting 15 years for him to show his animals for him,” she said with a smile. “The heifer’s from my dad’s ranch.”

Luis has learned a lot from this year’s experience, said his father Luis Barrera Sr.

“I’m very, very happy with how he did,” Barrera said. “He worked so hard with the animal every day. I’m extremely proud of him. It’s teaching him responsibility, taking care of the animal.”